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Stereo Williams on Diamonds and Pearls as a blueprint for Black musicians who dared to be different

D to the I to the A to the M, O to the N to the D to the pearls of love.

Today marks the 30th anniversary of Prince and the New Power Generation’s ‘Diamonds and Pearls‘ and Stereo Williams wrote about it for Mic:

There was also the assertion that the daring artistry of Prince was being upended by the emergence of Hip-Hop, a genre the musical iconoclast had seemingly denounced on “Dead On It,” a lost track from the bootlegged aforementioned Black Album, back in 1986.

“Well, first I never said I didn’t like rap,” Prince would clarify to Sky Magazine shortly after his 13th studio album, Diamonds and Pearls, dropped in 1991. “I just said that the only good rappers were the ones who were ’dead on it’ — the ones who knew what they were talking about. I didn’t used to like all that braggadocio stuff. ’I’m bad, I’m this. I’m that.’ Anyway, everybody has the right to change their mind.”

[…]

Pop stardom can often be stifling of Black artistry, but after spending years expanding his musical repertoire stylistically, on Diamonds & Pearls, Prince offered a glimpse into how the Black pop auteur can navigate mass appeal and their own creative muse all at once. With megahits like “Gett Off,” “Cream” and the title track, Prince and The New Power Generation dropped his most radio-centric project in years. But it somehow sounded like nothing Prince had ever done before.

“No band can do everything,” said Prince in 1991. “For instance, this band I’m with now is funky. With them, I can drag out ‘Baby I’m a Star’ all night! I just keep switching gears on them, and something else funky will happen. I couldn’t do that with the Revolution. They were a different kind of funky, more electronic and cold. The Revolution could tear up ‘Darling Nikki,’ which was the coldest song ever written. But I wouldn’t even think about playing that song with this band.”

It made sense that Miles Davis collaborated with Prince towards the end of his career. They both shared a remarkable knack of reinvention with new ideas and new bands to execute them, whilst maintaining that innate talent that made them who they were. Diamonds and Pearls was just one example that opened up the 90s for so many Black artists who dared to be different.

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